Causes and penalties of variation: Case study of a Precast concrete slab production facility

Chao Wang, Min Liu, Simon M. Hsiang, Michael L. Leming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Concrete precast plants require strict control over and adherence to the timing and sequence of operations. Variation for this research is divided into the variation in task starting time (the difference between the planned and the actual starting time) and the variation in task duration (the difference between the planned and the actual task duration). This study determined causes of variation in task starting time and duration of precast concrete slab production tasks. It also identified penalties associated with not reducing variation, which include an increase in project duration, Work in-Progress (WIP) and cost and a decrease in labor productivity. Additionally, two execution policies (keeping laborers waiting before preconditions are ready and keeping laborers busy) in the face of variation were compared by using STROBOSCOPE simulation techniques. It was found that simply keeping workers busy is insufficient for managing variation. Management effort should be devoted to eliminate causes of variation in the planning stage to make a reliable work plan. The results will help prefabricators to understand causes and penalties of variation, which is the starting point of attacking and reducing it. Although this study is based on a concrete slab production facility, this research can have a broader effect on the construction industry because the research method and simulation models developed in this study are applicable to other fabrication processes as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)775-785
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cause
  • Concrete slab production facility
  • Penalty
  • Simulation
  • Variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


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